H From Steps Talks Being Gay and Finding Safe Space in Pop Music

H Steps gay music

The Steps bandmate found solace in 80s pop when he was being bullied growing up. Now he’s out and proud to be a voice for the community.

Ian ‘H’ Watkins from Steps says Kylie Minogue and Bananarama were a bubble for him to run to when he was being bullied for being gay.

“I was followed home from school, I was bullied, I was beaten up. I never had that safe space,” he recalled in a recent interview with Huff Post.

“When I was young, the whole queer movement was so fuelled by Pete Waterman,” H said. “Kylie, Jason, Rick Astley, Mel and Kim, Bananarama, Five Star, all of these people, they’re not necessarily queer, but they were part of my soundtrack to my youth and they provided a queer safe space for me, and I looked to them for solace and acceptance.”

“I knew I was different but I didn’t know what different was then. But I would close my bedroom door and blast those records on my little red plastic record player and shut out the world where I was bullied, beaten up, ridiculed for being camp and femme and different. My bedroom was my safe space.”

Now, 25 after he had joined the Steps, and with 14 top 10 hit singles and 8 top 5 albums in the UK, the band is releasing a celebratory Platinum Collection on August 19, accompanying it with a summer tour.

“It’s quite incredible really, when 25 years ago everybody laughed at us,” he says. “It feels like a full-circle moment.”

H came out publicly in 2007 in an interview in The Sun, and since then he’s been using Steps to create LGBTQ!+ visibility and promote equality “It’s important to me, as a gay man and all of the rest of Steps as LGBTQI+ allies, to use our platform for good,” he told Huff Post.

“For me to speak openly as a gay man and a proud gay dad, wearing a ball gown on stage – I never thought I could do that! Twenty-five years ago when we started, I was in the closet. I was totally unsure who I was. And now I’m in ball gowns and harnesses, nail polish, glitter on my eyes.”

Having suffered growing up, H from Steps has now become a role model for gay kids, and connects them to pop music.

“[on Steps’ last tour] I said every night on stage, ‘thank you for allowing me to feel safe in that space’. I was living my best life, and I wanted everybody else to feel that as well. I’ve got goosebumps thinking about it, because it was such a special moment every night for me.”

“Whatever your sexuality or ability, Steps has an open door policy where you can come and live your best life. Whether it be in your bedroom with the door closed, or loud and proud in a field, come and live your authentic self, and have a fucking great time, that’s what it’s about.”